Hiking is an outdoor activity that doesn’t require much, but rewards with a lot. You don’t need fancy gear — if you can walk, you can hike. With only your two feet, hiking has an amazing ability to show you the world from a bird’s eye view. With that being said, there is some preparation involved. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Choose the right hike
Choosing the right hike is like baking cookies; you need the perfect amount of everything to pull it off well. Too much flour in a cookie, makes it more like a biscuit; adding too little flour causes it to be flat and greasy. It’s the same with hiking — you want to find that right balance.
With a hike, you want to challenge yourself, but choosing a hike way out of your league will make the experience less enjoyable. The first step is narrow down the general area you want to hike in. Let’s say it’s the Grand Canyon. Then, do your research on the different Grand Canyon hiking trails and find out the pros and cons, length, skill level and type of terrain you’re looking for. If you do a little bit of legwork before going out on the actual hike, you’ll be a lot more prepared and have a lot more fun.
Pack the hiking essentials
Each hiking trip requires certain gear depending on the weather, location and length, but there are a few essentials that you should be in your backpack whenever you venture out:
- Water (and a way to purify water)
- Food and energy snacks
- Rain gear and fast-drying layers
- Sunscreen (even in winter)
- First aid kit
- Maps or GPS
- Blister care
- Pocket knife
- Head lamp
Practice Leave No Trace
It’s important that any time you venture out into nature, you practice the seven Leave No Trace principles. The concept of Leave No Trace exists for the purpose of keeping the wilderness wild, and to preserve the raw elements of nature that so many of us crave to experience. If you decide to go on a hike, it is your duty to practice these principles and to leave nature untouched by your presence so the person after you can enjoy its wonders as well. There are a few very useful hand signals to help you memorize the seven principles of Leave No Trace.
Check the weather (and permits)
This might seem like common sense, but you would be surprised how many people forget to check the weather. The weather up in the mountains is much different than weather in town. Even if it looks sunny from outside your window, it may not be the case a little higher up. If the weather doesn’t look the best, simply don’t go. A cool story of hiking in bizarre weather is not worth the risk.
Many trails and parks require permits. Sometimes they are a “first come first serve” basis, other times you have to reserve them online. If you’re not sure whether you need one, call the park office for information.
Tell someone where you are
The movie 127 Hours sums it up the best. It’s a true story about a rock climber who got trapped by a boulder after an accident and had to embark on a harrowing journey to save himself because no one knew where he was and he had no way of contacting anyone. The morale of the story: Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. Go off the grind and enjoy nature, but make sure someone knows your whereabouts and you have the right tools, like a satellite messenger, to make contact if you need to send out an SOS.
Are you ready to hike?
Connecting with nature by hiking is incredibly rewarding; knowing that the miles you traveled on your hike are all due to your own two feet and not some magical machine creates a rush of endorphins. The only thing required is just a little preparation, and the benefits far outweigh the time spent on a little planning. So the next time you venture out on a hiking trail, make sure you’ve followed these tips and you’ll be sure to have a great experience.